Deeper Learning is a relatively new term for a set of educational goals that have always been prized by the best educators. Also known as 21st Century Learning, Deeper Learning values content mastery, communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, the ability to self-direct, giving and receiving feedback in a constructive manner, and a healthy academic mindset.
For academic learning to matter in the real world, students need to be able to determine what knowledge and strategies they should apply in familiar and novel situations and to recognize why they have made those choices. They need to be able to reflect on the effectiveness of their chosen approach and revise their understanding of problem and solution where warranted.
Deeper Learning typically engages students with real-world situations in ways that traditional learning might not. This real-world engagement raises the stakes where literacy skills are concerned. Students with stronger literacy skills at all grade levels will be better able to self-direct, relying less on their teachers and more on the resources available to them.
Many of the literacy skills needed for Deeper Learning also align with the Common Core, including (but by no means limited to):
- Asking and answering questions about a text (e.g., who, what, where, etc.)
- Retelling a story and explaining what it means
- Recognizing the differing points of view held by different characters
- Discussing connections between different parts of a text (e.g., a series of events)
- Writing opinion pieces, informational or explanatory texts, and narratives
- Strengthening writing by revising and editing
- Analyzing various accounts of an event or topic and identifying similarities and differences
- Using information from a variety of print and/or digital sources to find answers quickly and efficiently
- Integrating information from multiple texts on the same topic
- Effectively using facts, sensory details, definitions, dialogue, description, transitional words, phrases, clauses, etc., in writing
- Conducting research using a number of sources, recalling relevant information, and drawing on evidence to build and present knowledge
- Writing regularly for extended time periods
- Citing evidence that strongly supports the analysis of a text
- Analyzing the way a modern work of fiction draws on traditional stories, myths, etc., to create a story that readers perceive as new
- Determining an author’s viewpoint and explaining how the author treats conflicting evidence or opinions
- Assessing arguments for soundness and sufficient evidence
- Building an argument, supporting it with solid reasons and pertinent evidence, and writing a well-reasoned conclusion
- Writing an entire composition in a formal style
- Considering the effect of an author’s choices (e.g., the setting, the way that characters are introduced and developed, etc.) on a text
- Evaluating the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings
- Analyzing a text that requires the reader to understand that what is really meant is different from what is directly stated (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement)
- Developing claims and counterclaims evenhandedly, providing relevant evidence, and pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of both in a way that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, and possible preconceptions
- Gathering information from a variety of authoritative print and digital sources; assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each source; avoiding overreliance on any single source; and presenting citations following a standard format
Today’s students face challenges unknown to previous generations. They must be able to filter an onslaught of information to decide what is relevant and what can be ignored. They have to learn how to communicate using an ever-growing variety of formats and media. Along with traditional essays, reports, and letters, today’s students need to learn how to write effective and appropriate emails, PowerPoint presentations, and video scripts. Self-directed learning might mean that even the youngest students are conducting independent research and learning how to judge the quality and authority of information sources and evidence.
New technologies, along with education trends like Deeper Learning, expand opportunities for students and give them new ways to succeed. But learners are also faced with new ways to fail. The reaches of “literacy” extend farther and deeper than ever before, and the consequences of illiteracy are dire. Every student deserves a toolbox of strong literacy skills to help them rise to meet today’s academic and real-world challenges.
For Further Reading: